||Issue No. 147||09 August 2002|
A Call to Action
Interview: Save Our Souls
Unions: Rats With Wings
Bad Boss: If The Boot Fits
History: Political Bower Birds
International: No More Business as Usual
Corporate: The Seven Deadly Sins of Capitalism
Review: Prepare To Bend
Satire: Bush Boosts Sharemarket Confidence: Shares his Cocaine Stash
The Locker Room
Week in Review
If The Boot Fits
By Jim Marr
Strong had Commission counsel drooling with sensational witness box allegations that a CFMEU organiser had threatened to break her arms and legs, then intimated harm would befall her young children.
For their part, union witnesses categorically denied the allegations, arguing they were a smokescreen for a dodgy operation that cut corners, particularly with regard to workplace safety.
On Thursday, in Greek St, Glebe, the paths of the CFMEU and Barbara Strong crossed again. This time it was the demolition end of her operation, on a building that is to be converted into luxury apartments.
When CFMEU officials called to check out her paperwork and safety compliance, she invoked the name of the Royal Commission. It's hardly surprising she should feel the Commission is firmly in her corner but her willingness to use other taxpayer-funded services to try and defeat her responsibilities is what elevates her into the Bad Boss running.
When Old King Cole's name failed to frighten away worker representatives, Strong put through a call to Tony Abbott's Office of the Employment Advocate, or Emplotyer's Advocate as it was referred to in the Commission. Then she rang the police.
With, at best count, 14 inner city police officers on site, the OEA badgering union secretary, Andrew Ferguson, and Leichhardt Council officers on the way, it was decided to send for the calming influence of experienced CFMEU assistant secretary, Brian Parker.
When Parker arrived at Greek St he was appalled.
"It would have to be one of the worst sites I have seen in my 13 years as a union official," Parker told Workers Online. "There was just no attention to safety at all.
"Workers were at risk but so were motorists and the general public."
Why? Well, where do you start?
- strong concerns over the "structural integrity" of a 10m perimeter faï¿½ade. All the main barriers and posts had been cut away from the top four metres.
- shards of glass scattered across the public footpath from where bricks had punched holes through windows
- no "competent person(s)" on site as required by regulation
- no lunch facilities or proper traffic control arrangements
- worries over inadequate first aid supplies, and access to a doorless toilet which was without such luxuries as soap and paper.
That, Parker said, was just the start, obvious from outside.
Parker didn't want a slanging match with Strong, who had famously told the Royal Commission she had "more balls" than a male building company supervisor, so he called Workcover.
There were moments of humour. State safety authorities forbad Strong entering her own site because she was improperly attired, then blocked her MBA rep because the pair of workboots he had borrowed had the toe ripped out of them.
Parker lent Strong a pair of his own Size 12s and the MBA man scabbed another pair of boots off one of the workers.
Then Workcover inspectors got down to the serious business of examining the health and safety issues. It wasn't long before they were writing out Prohibition Notices, Improvement Notices and issuing fines, amidst demands that the site be shut down.
That argument was resolved when council officers arrived and revealed no permission had been given for demolition work on the property.
Demolition is a dangerous business and practitioners have to be licensed. Parker believes Workcover should give serious consideration to S & B's future when its demolition licence comes up for review.
"We're not out to get Barbara Strong or her company but we are out to protect working people and the general public and we don't apologies for that," he said.
"When firms don't comply with the basics - getting council consent or having a competent person on site - you know they are cutting corners and evading responsibilities. Those attitudes are unacceptable when it comes to workplace safety."
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